SHEBOYGAN — The head of the Professional Golf Association says the PGA is planning to welcome a “packed house and full fan experience” for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits this September.
That is exactly what business owners in the Sheboygan area and beyond want to hear after the Ryder Cup was canceled last year due to COVID-19.
Corey Franklin opened up Art’s BBQ restaurant in Sheboygan a few months before the pandemic started. It’s less than nine miles from Whistling Straits.
Hearing the PGA is planning for a large and complete Ryder Cup experience, Sept. 21 - 26, gives Franklin new hope.
“I think that’d be a great thing for Sheboygan County,” he said. “Especially for small businesses. I would hope they would help out the small businesses because we do need help after this past year.”
From small businesses to larger-scale operations, the more people who come to town for the Ryder Cup, the better. Having the event canceled last summer was a huge blow.
“It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime event for this area,” said Thomas Nye, General Manager and Master Wine Maker at Blind Horse Restaurant & Winery.
The Blind Horse Restaurant & Winery was booked solid for events for every night of the Ryder Cup before it was postponed. So far, about 30 percent of those customers have re-booked for this September.
“It was the biggest thing we’ve ever seen,” Nye said. “We’ve had other golf events come through Whistling Straits, but this far outweighed everything we’ve had in the past.”
Visit Sheboygan estimates the overall economic impact of the Ryder cup for Sheboygan County alone would be at least $30 million. That includes everything from travel expenses and hotels to restaurants and shopping.
The Kohler Company, which owns Whistling Straits, estimates a $135 million economic impact for the region.
“I think in July and August, there’s going to be a scramble like nobody’s ever seen in this area to book venues,” Nye said.
Blind Horse Restaurant & Winery spent a lot of money installing state-of-the-art lights and fans that kill COVID-19 - an investment that will pay for itself if the Ryder Cup is at or near full capacity.
“We wanted to make sure everyone who walks through our doors feels safe,” Nye said. “I’m very hopeful that the kind of Ryder Cup we were initially expecting, will come back to us.”
Representatives for the PGA will not confirm if the Ryder Cup will be at full fan capacity. But, with just a few months to go, the decision is expected soon. The PGA and Whistling Straits are in close communication with the local and state health departments.
For some perspective, here’s what past Ryder Cups have brought in for other places, according to Golfweek:
- In 2018, the event pumped an estimated $266 million into the French economy.
- In 2016, the event added more than $130 million to Minnesota’s economy.
- In 2014, it boosted at least $120 million into Scotland’s economy.